Photography is an art of observation. This week we go Behind the Lens with Emily, a food graphic designer, who’s also known as @conyjapjapjap on Instagram. We asked her to share more about her passions for food design and photography, as well as food styling.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What do you do besides your passion for food?
My name is Emily and I’m a graphic designer based in Hong Kong. I started to grow an interest in food-related designs when I was at university and food photography was one of those. I’m interested in exploring the relationship between design and food and how communication & visuals help people live better.
How do you see the role of food photography on your social media accounts? Do you find your followers more inspired by the photos or by the comments you make on the dishes?
I started my Instagram account after graduation to make it my off-work hobby and treat it as my log for practising food photography and styling — I always believe in learning by doing. You cannot take nice food photos at your first attempt, so from my gallery, I could really see myself improving in terms of food photography and being more comprehensive. It also makes me feel more confident when putting the skills into my food-related design projects.
For work I focus more on projects related to Chinese cuisine or Western pastries, so my Instagram account opens another door for me in a more leisure and casual way, that I can practise my food photography while “cafe hopping” at weekends — no studio lightings, no mood boards (and no clients) but just casual photos and lifestyle colour editing.
Visuals always speak before text on Instagram, I guess people will be firstly attracted by my photos before they dig into the story behind by reading the captions. My aim with my posts is that people can learn what I’m experiencing in that restaurant through the images and can comment and share with me their own preferences.
What gear do you use to document your dining experiences?
Mainly Canon 90D and sometimes iPhone 7 Plus (borrowed from my boyfriend, I just have a tiny iPhone SE)
Can you share your very favourite food shot on your Instagram? What’s the story behind?
The light is beautiful in the below shot but the sun is not always your “best friend” in food photography, as it plays hide-and-seek with me! Whenever I go for cafe hopping during weekends, over 50% chances will be cloudy / raining, or the sunshine cannot get through. This photo was taken in BASAO when their Causeway Bay branch just opened. It was a Saturday and I wasn’t in a very good mood due to a long week at work: the drinks and roll cake arrived at the table and suddenly a strong sunlight shined through the window creating a beautiful beam of light on my table. The wooden texture of BASAO’s cups and table created harmony and warmth in the picture and it also brightened up my mood 🙂
In your point of view, what kind of food image is the most engaging content on your blog?
I’m a fan of tableware and I love collecting them from different shops. Appropriate and meticulous styling definitely uplifts the whole dining experience, as well as enhancing the visual sense. People show a lot of engagement and interest for my home cafe series #conysetsthetable! I enjoyed setting up my own home-cafe with my collection of tableware, especially during this period with the pandemic, sometimes I prefer staying at home preparing my own food instead of cafe hopping.
Your photos look so yummy and inspiring! Could you give us a few tips on how to take great food photos even when dining out in non-optimal situations?
Low lighting? Switch the attention to something different!
During my visit to Plat du Jour, though it was a nice dining experience with exquisite dishes and services, the lighting wasn’t ideal for talking pictures as the main light source was from candles. I usually take photos with RAW file format on my DSLR camera so that I can tune the photo exposure up in post production. Sometimes the noise in the picture from the lack of lighting is just too much, so I have created extra graphics for the carousel feed to make the images more interactive. This also gives them a more festive look for the Holiday Season!
No props? Play around with the space
When there is a lack of props, I usually play around with the focus blurring the background or foreground which creates a layered composition in the image and therefore makes the picture more dynamic and interesting to the viewer. Hands holding the dish / food can also be an option to make images more interactive.
What is your favourite type of food to shoot?
Coffees with breakfast/pastries! Always happy to shoot a table with coffee and a full breakfast to capture the feeling of a fresh start of the day.
Favourite restaurant in HK?
It’s very hard to choose as I don’t have an absolute favourite. But if I have to choose, Nggy’s Kitchen, Fukuro and Pici are my comfort-food options that I visit regularly, because of their wide-range menu and seasonal items that surprise me at every visit.
What advice would you give to new food bloggers?
Practice makes perfect! Keep exploring, observing, researching and eating – you will find your own formula to create beautiful photos.
About Dishtag: As an early adopter of the Dishtag app, what do you like most about it?
A very user-friendly app of mouthwatering dishes around Hong Kong – the full-screen feature of Dishtag reminds me of a photo-dictionary!